A peace conference on Syria in Astana, Kazakhstan is being held at the request of Russia, Iran and Turkey this week. The United Nations and the United States are both only observers. And it is in itself a quite evident indicator of the new times and the complicated conditions in which negotiations have entered. Only one thing seems safe: regardless of the outcome of the peace conference, Turkey will be an obvious terrorist target for groups like IS, as long as the Turkish identity is a mystery to Turkey itself.
There is a red thread from this week’s peace conference to the year’s first terrorist attack in Istanbul New Year’s Day, which cost 39 people’s lives, most of them foreigners. This red thread touches on the issue of Turkey’s role in Syria.
The attack was the first thing that IS unconditionally blamed for after the attack. It was also the eighth IS attack since that in Ankara in October 2015, killing more than 100 people. On the IS website, the New Year’s attack in Istanbul was celebrated as a revenge on Turkish presence and offensive in Syria.
When IS ‘days are spoken
With the advancement of the Iraqi army in the fight against IS, the terrorist organization’s days in Iraq seem to be no longer being spoken so at least to be well on their way. Iraq’s army announced last week, that the IS had been expelled from Østmosul.
However, that does not mean Mosul is free from IS. These days, the liberation of Vestmosul begins, where the IS stands stronger than it did in the eastern part of the city. At the same time, the coalition ensures with 60 newly-sent Danish hunter soldiers, the border between Iraq and Syria. The purpose seems to be to prevent IS from a withdrawal from Mosul to the northern parts of Syria, where IS still has strong shelters.
With similar pressure on the terrorist group in Syria, the self-proclaimed caliphate does not look much longer. Needed a teacher as a naked woman to spin. And it seems to be the survival strategy of the terrorist organization at this time.
There is, in fact, a particular focus on Turkey as a bombing for IS in these times. Over 400 people have been killed as a result of terrorist attacks in Turkey since the summer of 2015. The government says that it has deflected 339 attacks during the same period. If the figure can be taken at par value, it represents quite massive action in the form of terrorist attacks against the Turkish state.
IS bomb bombing in Turkey
The first wave of attacks from IS began in 2015 and intensified the conflict between the militant Kurdish groups and the Turkish military. The second wave of attacks was directed at tourism in Turkey and at the same time resulted in a rage against the 2.8 million Syrian refugees in the country.
The third and last wave of attacks from IS has hit the core of the third major component of Turkey’s skisma: the issue of secular and Islamic Turkey.
The attack on January 1 was aimed at a night club celebrating the New Year. With just this attack, IS beat several flies with one slap. First, it hit the tourism industry; The majority of the killed were foreigners. On the one hand, one hit the great secular-Islamic skisma that the Turkish state suffers.
Like another sharp chiropractor, IS has managed to enter and tap the weakest points of the Turkish soul equally, thus giving latent inflammation to full blossom.
If it were the intention and plan of the IS to go in and pile at the very basic structure of this abstract size, one must say it seems to be successful for the terrorist group.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is more than busy in joining a nation martrated by not only the existential choice between secular and religious as the foundation of the Turkish identity, but equally the politically charged issue of ethnicity and identity in the relationship between Kurds and Turks.
Whilst on the foreign policy front he is busy watching the Kurds’ advance in Syria and an increasingly strong wish for territorial expansion of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq. And with such a Kurdish requirement, the Kurdish nightmare of Erdog is far from over. For Turkish interests abroad, first and foremost in Iraq and Syria, play an equal role in the political agenda like domestic policy. These two things are closely linked.
With attacks from both IS and Kurdish groups, it may not be surprising if Erdogan is accused of exhibiting easier paranoid tendencies these days
Istanbul was exposed to two rocket attacks with Kurdish sender last week. Thus, the headquarters of the government party in Istanbul attacked rocket attacks like a major police station in the middle In Istanbul just a few hours before, too, had been hit by rocket attacks. In other words, it is quite clear that this conflict between Kurdish and Turkish interests is far from decreasing.
Why IS Loves Turkey
Just as Turkey is enjoying the special attention of IS, there are several reasons. First of all, the Turkish soul is a distinctive size, trapped between two continents, between two worlds, between Europe and Asia. A country with such different dimensions, gives a special hybrid that appeals to IS. Because the very heart of Turkish identity is a matter of finding its point of view somewhere between East and West.
If you as a terrorist organization can go in and contest this unanswered question, you can undermine the very foundation of a nation’s soul, if you want to. In other words, you can sharpen the structure itself in this abstract concept of what constitutes Turkey, as a nation, as a state.
Overall, there are three main components, each of which constitute essential and quite delicate subjects in the Turkish state’s identity. First, there is the relationship between the Kurds and the Turks in the Turkish state. A rather strained and at times tormented arrangement with militant Kurdish groups who want autonomy. Then a similar strained relationship between secular and islamic turkey.
Particularly this relationship has deteriorated further during the reign of President Erdogan. Many secular just blame Erdog’s pro-Islamic government to be the very cause of rising extremism in the country.
Greater power for Erdogan and a restriction of democracy’s pillars
That the government party has recently made a proposal on amendment of the Constitution It is in itself quite clear and a good indicator of the state of mind in which the country is at present. A state of chaos and identity crisis. If the proposal goes through in parliament and endorsed by a referendum, Erdogan will actually be in power until 2029.
Such a constitutional change will in itself be a step away from a crucial element in the classical democracy model: government leaders are held accountable for their leadership every four years (every 5 years in Turkey) of the population. And that just the population can choose another leader instead of.
Proponents for the proposal have argued that the model is a strengthening of the presidential role, similar to the role of the French and American presidents. Opponents, however, argue that the proposed constitutional amendment will primarily be a legalization of Erdogan’s authoritarian leadership style. It is a leadership style he has particularly intensified after the failed military coup trial in July 2016, and has been used in particular to crack down on political opponents and activists, including journalists.
East, West, where is home at home?
The third main component of the Turkish identity is the question of belonging to either East or West, and is closely linked to the question of religious or secular values.
The question is what direction the country is going to go. Should the nation move eastwards, thus pursuing a more defined role in the Middle East. Or to the west and an EU, which in theory talks about Turkish membership of the European Union, but actually has no prospect. And if the EU still falls apart in the wake of Brexit, may it be more appropriate for Turkey to turn its eyes to the east? These are the issues that Turkey is fighting on the internal lines. But these questions will largely define Turkey’s role in the international scene. The outcome of this will have long-term consequences, not just for the country itself, but equally well for the EU and for the Middle East.
And although Turkey – quite self-inflicted – has currently taken on the role of the more easily overlooked boy in the class who no one likes to play with, it is definitely a dangerous course for both East and West to maintain
No one can, in the meantime, allow himself to lose Turkey to the opposite side. The EU has – as you know – first and foremost need Turkey as a buffer zone for the major refugee flows from the Middle East. The Middle East does not currently have the urgent need for a Turkish superpower in the region. Iraq rages over the presence of Turkish troops in the country, as Syria claims suicide violations of similar Turkish troops in Syria at the border area between the two countries.
Currently, only Saudi Arabia seems to have a so-called hearty cooperation with Turkey. But seen with middle east eyes, this is not something that can be particularly important. After all, Saudi Arabia is nothing but the half-cousin cousin of the family, who alone is in need because of the ever-filled pockets of gold.
But with a Trump-led United States, many of the many in the region are considered a loose cannon, the image of a strong leader in the form of Erdogan in the long term may seem attractive as a stabilizing factor. In other words, Erdogan can strengthen its position in the Middle East with the newly elected President Donald J. Trump at the helm in Washington.
Peace Conference on Syria
Perhaps such considerations have been up and down with Erdogan. For Turkey, for the war in Syria, it has made some of a U-turn. Last week, Turkey announced that it will no longer insist on an agreement on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its future role prior to the peace conference .
Instead, negotiations will be launched on the basis of this, thus accepting leaving the Syrian President on the post. Where before, from the Turkish side, the Syrian President’s future role discussed, including the possibility of removing him from the post, is now merely a ceasefire and peace agreement, which implies amnesty for the various rebel groups in the country. And thus let the Syrian President remain on his post. This is a quite drastic change of the Turkish attitude.
Currently, only Saudi Arabia seems to have a so-called hearty cooperation with Turkey. But seen with middle east eyes, this is not something that can be particularly important. Saudi Arabia is after all nothing but the half-cousin cousin of the family, who alone is in need because of the ever-filled pockets of gold.
If you can get a peace agreement – or just ceasefire – in place, it will not just be a victory for the Syrian President, Russia, Iran and Turkey. It will first and foremost be a defeat to the West, whose role can be considered to be played throughout the region.
This could have long-term consequences not only for the United States, but also the West’s Démo in the Middle East.
Such a victory for Erdogan on the foreign policy front will also affect the internal fronts of Turkey. A strong Erdogan on the home front with a potential success in the back pocket of Syria will of course move Turkey further eastwards and thus further away from the EU. It is not a desirable position for the EU.
Obviously, not only Syria has anything at stake. Turkey is equally important, both domestic and foreign policy.
Whatever the outcome of this week’s peace conference, one thing remains: As long as the Turkish identity is a mystery to Turkey itself, as long as it will be the country’s Achilles heel and thus an obvious target for terrorist attacks for groups such as IS.